Google claimed that around 12,000 email users across the globe have been making attempts to hack into the company to collect information from targeted accounts. These users are ‘government-backed’ groups spread across 149 countries.
After the recent controversy of using WhatsApp by an Israel-based company, NSO Group, Google faces a similar threat of being used to snoop.
NSO Group’s malicious software ‘Pegasus’ was sued for conducting surveillance against Indian citizens. WhatsApp claimed the surveillance had 1,400 specifically targeted devices of Indian journalists and activists.
Countries Responsible for Hacking
According to Shane Huntley, the Director of Google’s Threat Analysis Group (TAG), “Over 90 percent of these users were targeted via ‘credential phishing emails’… these are usually attempting to obtain the target’s password or other account credentials to hijack their account”.
Google has sent warning notices to these users from countries such as India, the US, Pakistan, South Korea, and Vietnam in a period of three months starting from July to September 2019. Out of the total users, 500 are from India.
India has more users who attempt to use Google for snooping than China. It was also found that countries such as Pakistan, Vietnam, Laos, and South Korea have made between 500 and 1,000 such attempts.
While the US has over 1,000 government-backed groups. According to Google officials, “These are usually attempting to obtain the target’s password or other account credentials to hijack their account”.
Activities of Hackers; A Pressure to High-Risk Users
As analyzed by Google, 270 government-backed groups across 50 countries are actively involved in illegal activities including extraction of confidential information, misuse of intellectual property, targeting dissidents and activists, implanting cyber-attacks, or spreading misinformation using malware.
The cyber attackers mostly targeted high-risk users including journalists, human rights activists, and those involved in political campaigns.
Google has a policy to protect high-risk users from cyber-attacks and counter the existing hacking attempts from government-backed users.
Considering the existing threat, Shane Huntley advised,
“We encourage high-risk users—like journalists, human rights activists, and political campaigns—to enroll in our Advanced Protection Program (APP), which utilizes hardware security keys and provides the strongest protections available against phishing and account hijackings. APP is designed specifically for the highest-risk accounts”.
I’m Roshan, a journalist, blogger and music lover. I like covering global news related to finance, business, and technology. Focusing on the collection of true and reliable information, I rely on working by conducting interviews with business leaders and talking to the inside sources of companies.
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